Namcol makes strides in educating the nation

Since its establishment through an Act of Parliament in 1997, the Namibian College of Open Learning (Namcol) has become a shining beacon and remained resolute in its mission of being committed to providing wider access to quality educational services for learners and other clients using a variety of open learning methods.

Milestones

Namcol’s 15th year of existence as the only dedicated open and distance learning institution in the country has not come with nothing to show for it. One of the institution’s major highlights is the development of high quality study material widely used by learners in the conventional system as well as the number of secondary education learners (more than 350 000 since the College inception) who have been well-equipped to face the future at institutions of higher learning. “The development of our own study materials is something worth taking note of. Each and every learner at Namcol receives a study pack upon enrolment. Our study materials have been approved by the Ministry of Education (MoE) for use in formal schools and are very affordable,” says the director, Heroldt Murangi.

Namcol has, over the years, grown exponentially in enrolment, resources and programme offers. Being the only well-established ODL institution in Namibia, Namcol enrolled over 34 000 students during the past academic calendar year.

“Our mandate is to provide educational opportunities to the youth and adults in the areas of general education (grades 10-12), professional programmes and in the area of technical and vocational education and training programmes. 15 years down the line, we have managed to provide education to learners that could not have been accommodated through the conventional system. If Namcol did not exist, then these students wouldn’t have been able to pursue their academic ambitions,” explains Murangi.

“We have since managed to increase our professional programmes from just one, which we introduced in 1998, to the current eight. We will soon launch our first technical and vocational education and training courses. These shall include automotive mechanics, welding and metal fabrication, plumbing and pipe fitting, as well as office administration,” briefs Murangi.

The institution has taken a leap forward towards the global technological advancements by setting up 12 computer centres in major towns to enable students keep abreast with information and communication technologies. Registered learners are privileged to do their research, assignments and send emails free of charge.

“We have also expanded on our multimedia initiatives in the form of educational broadcasting. We have produced over a thousand radio programmes that we broadcast through the NBC national radio and other independent radio stations. We also develop and broadcast TV programmes at grades 10 and 12 level through the support of the Ministry of Education. These programmes are broadcast through the NBC and One Africa televisions.

Fulfilment of mandate

Namcol’s broad mandate is to contribute to the socio-economic development of Namibia. As part of its programme diversification, the college offers various professional programmes in the disciplines of community development, business management, local government administration, psychosocial support, early childhood development and youth work.

“We strive to fulfill our mandate of providing quality education to Namibian learners. There are so many stakeholders involved with Namcol including various Government institutions, students, parents and other stakeholders. Without any doubt, we have received good support from various Government ministries, the University of Namibia (Unam), the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) and other tertiary institutions from outside the country,” he adds.

Murangi also expresses his disappointment towards parents and guardians who often have a negative attitude towards their children for enrolling with Namcol.

“I don’t think that we receive the support we want from parents who consider Namcol students as failures, which isn’t necessarily the case. If a learner fails, it doesn’t mean they are outcasts or failures in life, otherwise, they would have lost hope. If parents continuously tell them that they are failures, they will be demoralised and will never be able to fulfill their goals,” he fumes.

Professional Courses

As part of its strategy to address training needs in the country, Namcol has developed and introduced a number of professional programmes. A total number of 1 283 students registered for the professional programmes during the 2012 academic year and a larger number is expected this year. The following programmes are currently on offer:

• Certificate in Education for Development (CED) – for community development workers
• Certificate in Local Government Studies – for regional and local government administrators
• Commonwealth Diploma in Youth Development Work – for youth development workers
• Certificate in Business Management – for grade 12 school leavers and existing entrepreneurs
• Certificate in Community Based Work with Children and Youth – for volunteers and people working with children in adversity
• Certificate in Early Childhood Development (CECD) – for members of the community who want to pursue a career in early childhood development (ECD)

• Certificate in English Communication – for members of the general public who want to improve their English language proficiency
• Diploma in Education for Development – for CED qualification holders
• Diploma in Early Childhood and Pre-Primary Education – for Namcol CECD holders or any level four certificate

The professional programmes offered by Namcol are accredited by the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA). They aim to address the diverse training needs of the Namibian people.

Challenges

“Since its inception, the college has been using more than 1 300 teachers from the formal education system to facilitate tuition. However, absenteeism and lack of commitment among teachers who act as tutors in addition to their full-time jobs in schools, remain a key challenge. Using teachers from formal schools in Namcol’s tutorial centres was one of the concerns aired by a number of stakeholders during the National Education Conference in 2011.

After considering the conference report, Cabinet passed a resolution to: investigate the practice of using the same teachers for formal education and open learning as well as making alternative recommendations. The MoE directed the college to pilot the idea of appointing a separate cadre of staff over a two-year period from retired to unemployed teachers,” says Murangi.

The first evaluation on the effectiveness of the system will be conducted at the end of this year and the report will be presented to the Ministry.

“Furthermore, our people’s negative perception towards open and distance learning (ODL) remains another challenge,” continues Murangi. “Namcol has become an institution of choice to many since they have realised that education cannot only be attained through the conventional system. We will continue to tirelessly educate our people on the importance of ODL in order to change their mindset.

The Future

The future is always closer than we think, they say. Well, for Namcol, there are a set of goals it hopes to achieve in future.

“There are so many Namibians who cannot afford to sit in lecture rooms on a full-time basis because the majority work, hence the importance of open learning. The institution will soon expand and offer more courses. It will therefore continue to be the beacon of hope for the thousands of Namibian learners who yearn to find their way back into conventional schools or attain entry to institutions of higher learning both locally and elsewhere,” says Murangi.

Registration for 2013 is currently underway and ends on 1st March 2013 and Namcol is set to continue in its quest of taking education to the people.

Namcol has shaped many people’s ambitions towards becoming strategic citizens. One such story is that of successful lawyer, Silas Shakumu. So suffice to say, the future is indeed bright for those who are mentored at the college. PF